California Vehicle Verification

How Vehicle Verification Works in California

In California, a physical inspection known as a vehicle verification is part of the vehicle registration process. It’s how the state knows the information that’s provided about a vehicle is accurate. Because vehicles are sometimes stolen, verification helps to ensure no one is registering property that isn’t legally their own.

When Is Vehicle Verification Required?

Vehicle verification is typically needed when the registration of a vehicle is required. That’s always the case when you’re registering a:

  • Vehicle that’s from out of state
  • Vehicle that doesn’t meet state emissions standards
  • Previously junked or salvaged vehicle that hasn’t already received a CHP Certificate of Inspection (CHP 97C)
  • Specially constructed (SPCNS) motor vehicle
  • SPCNS trailer
  • Vehicle with no DMV record (unless new and reported sold by a licensed California dealer)
  • Vehicle with an engine change
  • Motorcycle engine case change
  • Vehicle that’s changed from engine number to vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • Vehicle with a VIN on record that doesn’t match the VIN on certifications

If you are getting a new VIN number from the DMV, you’ll also need to go through the vehicle verification process. There are very few exceptions to the physical inspection. Essentially, only new trailers and new commercial vehicles that meet California emissions standards can skip the vehicle verification during registration.

What is Checked During the Physical Inspection of a Vehicle

Unlike emissions and safety inspections, vehicle verification isn’t focused on how the automobile functions. The primary purpose of this process is to make sure all the ownership and physical information on the registration application is accurate. To do this, inspectors must check certain parts of the vehicle. The physical inspection will include checking the:

  • License plate
  • Number of axles
  • Vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • Engine number
  • Make and model
  • Weight
  • US Federal Certification Label
  • Odometer reading
  • Ownership documents
  • Emissions label

Everything on the registration application, existing DMV records, and certifications need to match what’s on the vehicle exactly. If not, the registration will be denied.

Who inspects my vehicle?

Vehicle verification is a part of the registration procedure so you can’t DIY it. A few different people are officially allowed to inspect a vehicle in California to verify the application information. The people who can complete a vehicle verification inspection are:

  • Specialty trained peace officers (city police, state highway patrol, military police)
  • DMV employees
  • California licensed vehicle verifiers
  • Authorized auto club employees

Most people schedule an appointment with the DMV, but it’s good to know there are options that might be more convenient.

California Verification of Vehicle Form (REG 31)

The REG 31 Form is used by the California DMV, California Highway Patrol (CHP) and other official verifiers when they conduct physical inspections of your vehicle. There is no need to actually fill out this form yourself. REG 31 is used to note the vehicle’s condition and information for verification.

Check out the Verification Of Vehicle Form (REG 31) to see what it includes. This will give you a good idea of what inspectors will be looking for, and the information requirements.

Transferring a Vehicle Title in California

In California, a vehicle title transfer is needed if you buy a used vehicle from a private owner or sell a vehicle. This lets the California DMV know that there’s been a transfer of ownership with the vehicle.

The vehicle needs to have a clean title, which means that vehicle registration was completed. And to register the vehicle, you’ll need to pass the vehicle verification inspection.

If the title is being replaced because it was lost or damaged, you’ll need to have a vehicle verification within 90 days of the title replacement.

If you want to learn all there is to know about vehicle verifications in California, check out Chapter 1 Section 1.165 of the Vehicle Industry Registration Procedures Manual.

For everyone else needing a driver’s license before they go through the vehicle verification process, start with online California Drivers Ed to learn everything you need to know to pass the exam!